If you have ever gone on one of our photo workshops, chances are you have heard terms like shaky, zoomy and twisty. Not exactly precision movement terms you might expect when describing landscape photography. But after photographing clean, sharp landscapes, you might want to try something different….say a little abstract. That is where these movements come into play. Abstract images are just that….very creative, personal and original creations of the scene. Autumn color is perfect, because it lets you mix and blur various color combinations into the final shot.
As a landscape photographer, I use my tripod constantly. I know my images will be sharp, and using a tripod slows me down and forces me to think a lot about my image. But shakies are the opposite. You want a slow shutter speed so you can shake your camera during the exposure. Opposite of using a tripod. I’ll never forget coming to a stand of yellow aspen trees and seeing a workshop all lined up on tripods getting tack sharp images. My group jumped out of their cars, came right up beside the other group, and began shaking their cameras shooting at 1/4 second. The expression of the other group said it all…total disbelief and shock. I don’t blame them, I’m sure we looked like a 60s hippee cult dancing around twirling our cameras laughing uncontrollably!
Here are settings to get you started. Set your ISO as low as it will go, 100 or lower, and set your aperture to its smallest opening…at least F22. You want a shutter speed of 1/8 or slower. You can add a polarizer or ND filter to help cut out more light if needed. Now the fun part. Try shaking your camera up and down….or zooming the lens in and out…or twisting the camera left or right…all during a long exposure. You will have to try many times to find just the right amount of motion to get the effect you want. Slow shutter speeds of 1 second or more result in very abstract shots. But around 1/4 second often gives some definition in the final image. The trick is make sure you have enough movement so the viewer knows it was intentional…shooting at 1/20 or faster you often can’t blur the scene enough.
The shot at the top of this blog was done at 1/8 of second using a 70-200mm lens. We found a beautiful red aspen grove last week on our Colorado fall color workshop, and we decided to do some shakies. I really like the final image. This weekend head out to your local park and try some shakies. You might just really like what you get! Happy shooting!